Old-Time Cold Remedies

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Monday, November 6, 1911: It rained nearly all day and I had no rubbers along at school and Pa didn’t come for me either. I didn’t like the idea of walking home, but there was no alternative. Such a day of tribulations as it was, also had a time with the cows getting them to go where I wanted them to go. Have a cold now.

Recent rainy day at the building that once housed the McEwensville School.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Yuck— It sounds like Grandma had a rough day.  First she got soaked coming walking home from school; then she had to deal with contrary cows. By the time she wrote this diary entry—probably in the evening—she was sick.

I wonder how Grandma treated her cold symptoms.  Here are some old-time central Pennsylvania remedies:

Cough syrup: Mix together 1 tablespoon each of whiskey, glycerin, honey, lemon. Give 1/2 teaspoon for young ‘ums, 1 teaspoon for adults.

For sore throat: Take equal parts of honey and vinegar, gargle often.

For sore throat: Gargle with warm salt water several times a day. DO NOT swallow the salt water!

Recipes, Reminiscence, & Remedies: Mooresburg Bicentennial Cookbook (2006)

These old remedies are from a cookbook that was published by the bicentennial committee of a town about 20 miles from McEwensville, and are probably similar to the remedies that Grandma might have used.

Hundred-Year-Old Excercise for Shoulders and Back

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Friday, October 6, 1911: Went over some of my studies tonight in order to learn what I don’t know. Exams are approaching. Dear me.Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Grandma sounds really worried about the exams. Maybe she did some exercises to relieve stress.  Here’s one from a 1911 book:

Shoulder and Back Exercise

First Position (Fig. 40)—Stand erect, with the feet together, and both arms extended on a plane with the should, so that in the first position the left arm is extended directly in front of the body and the right arm on the same plane directly behind the body. The arms must be held rigidly on the same plane.

Second Position (Fig. 41)—by a circular movement, the position of the left arm is assumed by the right, and vice versa. During the entire movement the feet must be kept firmly planted on the floor, pivoting at the hips only, while making the continuous circular movement of the arms.

Personal Hygiene and Physical Training for Women (1911) by Anna Galbraith

Another Old Bee Sting Remedy

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Saturday, July 8, 1911: Went to Watsontown this afternoon. Got stung by a bee coming home. Went up to Oakes on an errand as soon as I got home from town.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

This is the second time that Grandma has been stung by a bee in less than a month. When I was a child my family always treated bee stings with a baking soda paste. But another old-time remedy for bee stings is described in the Compendium of Every Day Wants (1908):

BEE STINGS.—Common plantain leaves mashed and tied on the part stung will at once draw out the swelling and take away all pain. This is a simple and easily gotten remedy and one that I have tried myself. One summer when I was helping to hive bees, my eyes were stung that they swelled shit, and this took the swelling out in an hour.

Luther Minter in Compendium of Every Day Wants (1908)

Common Plantain (Photo Source: H. Zell, Wikemedia Commons)

The Compendium is referring to a weed sometimes called common plantain (and not to the cooking banana). Some alternative medicine websites indicate that plantain helps relieve bee stings because the leaves contain tannins which act as an astringent and reduces swelling. The leaves may also reduce pain because they contain salicylic acid (which is the active ingredient in aspirin)

How to Live 100 Years

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Wednesday, June 28, 1911: Nothing much to write about unless it would be that I was an exceedingly industrious girl today.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Since Grandma didn’t write  much today, I’m going to post some century-old advice by Eugene V. Brewster, the author of What’s What in America, about how to live to be a hundred years old:

How to Live 100 Years

I expect to live one hundred years. It is very simple when you know how.

Here’s how:

1. Keep clean. All disease is caused by uncleanliness—principally internal.

2. Drink nearly a gallon of fluid a day—pure water and milk are best.

3. Eat not more than two meals a day of wholesome food. Overeating kills more people than tuberculosis and pneumonia combined.

4. Let all food remain in the mouth twice as long as most people do. It you don’t it will be worse than wasted.

5. Sleep winter and summer with the head of your bed under an open window. Colds are impossible if Rule 1 is followed.

6. Get busy—not merely exercise, but useful work. Walking will do though.

7. Eat sparingly of meat. Three or four times a week is enough.

8. Be extremely moderate with such poison as tobacco, liquor, tea and coffee.

9. Make better friends of nuts, fruits and grains, and cut down your supply of cooked foods. Fire destroys life and many of the nutritive qualities of food.

10. Breath and speak low. Subdue your emotions and keep an even poise.

If I die before 1969 you will know that I fell down on one of these rules.

Eugene V. Brewster, Pure Foods Magazine (June, 1910)

Note: Mr. Brewster died in 1939, so I guess that he fell down on one of these rules.

Home Remedy: Bee Stings

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Wednesday, June 21, 1911: Got stung twice by a bumble bee this afternoon. I didn’t feel too well.

Bumble Bee (Photo source: Wikepedia)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

I wonder if Grandma used baking soda to reduce the pain and swelling caused by the sting. When I was a child my parents always treated bee stings by first gently pulling the stinger out if it had broken off and was embedded in the skin. Then they’d mix together a couple tablespoons of baking soda and a little water to make a paste.  The paste was then thickly spread over the sting site.

The baking soda home remedy has always worked well—and when my children were growing up I continued to use it to treat bee stings.

1911 Weight Loss Tip: Fletcherize Your Food

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Friday, June 16, 1911: Please excuse me for I have forgotten what I did today. It’s hardly worthwhile to keep a diary, when you can’t remember anything.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

I’m still enjoying reading a 1911 book by Dr. Mary Galbraith called Personal Hygiene and Physical Training for Women. Last week I told you how about how obesity was defined in 1911. Today, I’ll give you an old-time suggestion for reducing weight and maintaining good health: thoroughly chew (or masticate) each bite of food before swallowing:

Obese patients grow fat because they overeat, but with a thorough mastication of the food their appetites would be satisfied with far less food than they have been accustomed to eat and the superfluous fat would drop off.

Personal Hygiene and Physical Training for Women (1911)

A hundred years ago, many people followed the beliefs of a food faddist named Horace Fletcher. He argued that for good health, it was very important for everyone to completely chew each bite of food before swallowing.

In 1911 people often talked about Fletcherizing (thoroughly chewing) their food. Depending upon the food, Fletcher argued that it should be chewed 32 times, 45 times, or even more before swallowing.

Also, it wasn’t considered healthy to eat too many soft easy-to-eat foods because that encouraged bolting of food, over-eating, and indigestion.

Are You Obese?: 1911 and 2011

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Friday, June 9, 1911: Must have forgotten what I did today. It won’t come into my head when I am ready to write it down.

William Taft (President in 1911): The most obese president in US history

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Since Grandma didn’t have much have much to say today, I’m going to go off on a tangent. When I look at photos from a hundred years ago some of the people look stout to me—well, frankly they look obese.

We hear that people are more likely to be obese today than in the past—and I wondered what people considered a healthy weight to be a hundred years ago.

I did a little research and found how one author defined obesity 100 years ago. According to Anna M. Galbraith, M.D. in a book published in 1911 called Personal Hygiene and Physical Training for Women:

Women should range in weight from one and eight-tenths to two and two-thirds pounds to each inch in height. In order to determine your own factor in this respect divide your weight in pounds by your height in inches. Any weight above two and one-half pounds to the inch in stature may be considered as excessive, inasmuch as it adds nothing to one’s mental or physical efficiency, and is frequently the forerunner to obesity.

According to the book, in 1911 the average woman was 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighed 133 pounds. According the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website the average woman today is still 5 feet 4 inches tall, but now weighs 165 pounds.

The chart above indicates when a woman was considered normal weight, overweight, and obese in 1911 and 2011. I was amazed to discover that according to the chart I’d be considered normal weight in 1911, but overweight today.

For 1911 I used the quote above to estimate the weights. I assumed that:

Normal weight = 1.8 pounds X height in inches to 2. 5 pounds X height in inches

Overweight = 2.5 pounds X height in inches to 2.67 pounds X height in inches

Obese =  Over 2.67 pounds X height in inches

Today a person’s body mass index (BMI) indicates whether they are a healthy weight. BMI is calculated based upon a person’s height and weight and is calculated using a formula that is more complex than the ones used in 1911.

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